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Paul Tracy DANISON
Paris, France
Coach humanist
Interests: Human potential
Recent Activity
Aurélie Gandit’s Visite dansée adds movement to a mix of fact and informed commentary, adding spectrum to the understanding of "The Lady with the unicorn". Photo © Michel Petit Life can seem grim lately: radical nostalgia-ism rampant in the homeland, pestilence sweeping the globe, war in Europe, betrayal everywhere. There is nothing especially odd about these particular grimnesses, but the, somehow Victorian, alt.-reality script does give it all a certain short-hair bristling, pre-episode strangeness. There are demands, for example, that a person’s uterus status restrict that person’s right to travel. A Tzar of All the Russias, formerly an agent of a notorious communist secret police service, bombards the gates of united Europe to the applause of obscure zealots hosted by nameless billionaires. Ambitious villains, cheek by jowl with messianic demagogues, plot overthrows of otherwise happy unions. I’ve been enjoying myself pretty well, though. Despite the alt. script, the real world of good, old, solid conundrums and sweet embrace flickers on, like General Hospital on dead Grandma Tracy’s TV. Just the other day, for instance, poor and inflation-rattled as I am supposed to be, I had the pleasure of a ristretto coffee made from beans plucked from a wild aboriginal coffee tree. Coffee, apparently, is native to a remote mountain province of Ethiopia, someplace near where Lucy woke. And the experience of getting the ristretto was as charming and enjoyable as drinking it was interesting and pleasurable. The wild beans are bought by Early Bird, a little stand inside the Marché Beauvau on Place d’Aligre, the venture of a pleasant Franco-Irish couple. Together they roast the beans then sell them, and many other types of coffee, besides, to the public. They also sell cups of coffee to market-goers; that’s how I got the ristretto and the beans, going to the market on Sunday morning. The bluff, well-made Irish fella took my order. Composed and busy behind a sleek, complicated-looking machine, the French woman drew my ristretto. The fella served me as I stood. I went out front and sat on an as-you-please bench set along the front window and threw the ristretto back. That done, I went and asked the fella to recommend me a coffee. He sold me on the wild beans, quite pricey. But no blarney. Those wild aboriginal beans from provincial Ethiopia deliver all the savor and lyric he said they would. Gandin dances inside the frame of the tapestries. Photo © Michel Petit Speaking of the world’s sweet embrace … Not long after I drank that ristretto and got those aboriginal beans, I had the pleasure to experience a Visite danséechoreographed around the famous conundrum of a set of six medieval (+/- 1500 CE) tapestries called La Dame à la licorne (“The Lady with the Unicorn”). The Visite, the brainchild of choreographer and dancer Aurélie Gandit and her troupe cie La Brèche, adds dance to the usual mix of fact and informed commentary and took place this past June in the recently renovated Hôtel de Cluny, Paris’... Continue reading
Posted Jul 18, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Wandering carolers find themselves in the Garden of Nettles only to find their selves. From “The Mutes”, Lina Lapelytè, June-July 2022, Lafayette Anticipations, Paris. Photo©Rasa Juskeviciute Right off, I need to claim Lina Lapelytè’s The Mutes for dance. I do because I've come to think that, when all is said and done, dance is people at movement among life's paradoxes – The Mutes certainly has paradox. “Movement” (of eye, ear, mouth, skin, brain, consciousness) – which The Mutes has too – is the mechanism that makes us realize that all stories are as true as false. What we call “dance” sculpts, then performs, movement, enabling imagining: opposite as apposite, song as sound, stinging nettle as tickling feather, floor as foot. Space as place, too. When Yuika Hashimoto twirled, turned and spiraled her moving reprise of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Violin Phase in 2018 in Lafayette Anticipation’s auteur space, the performance found a place; The Mutes magics space into place: the Garden of Nettles. Da sein! From “The Mutes”, Lina Lapelytè, June-July 2022, Lafayette Anticipations, Paris. Photo©Rasa Juskeviciute Movement into The Mutes is through a parallel visual-culture narrative: nettles, food-weed/medicine-irritant, a pair of clogs made for a surface rather than for feet. Pairs of clogs tease the brain as I stroll glancing into the bushes for the them – they remind me: Burma Shave signs with their intriguing streaks of Midwestern jokeyness strung along the old two-lane interstates. Strolling creates the paths I now see among stands of nettles. I am pulled into, I almost run into, a sound experience of paradox and becoming. A band of intensely ordinary carolers orderly gather in a corner in front of a pillar, held between clumps of nettles. They chant-sing “off-key” and well. They carol select stanzas from Sean Ashton’s 2017 novel Living in a Land I’ve never gone back/I’ve never gone back/To my childhood home I’ve never gone back To my childhood home/and found it to be emotionally sterile/ I’ve never gone back/To my childhood home And come to the conclusion that we live in time not place, time, not place, not place, time, not place/ We live in time not place/time not place/time not place/time not place/time not place I laugh. My guard down, in an eyeblink, a mischievous spirit flies into my ha-ha hole, gets a grip on my tongue. It takes only a second to jar me loose. I feel I’ve heard this before (without ever having heard it), without saying it, have felt it, felt it and said it, at a fancy party. Also, “Time not place” comes to me. Also, I may actually have “driven a “7.5-tonne truck”. Feeling tickled in place not time pulls me from memory. I listen to what I’ve seen. The caroling shapes to Song(s) of Myself(ves). The carolers shift to Intensely ordinary Selves, as true as Walt Whitman’s own. Less overblown language, too. The Selves are zazen kinhin devotees wandering vegetable paradox, carving out a place in somebody’s else’s bijou design. A pillar... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
WONDER by Mylène Benoît: “Body memory working on the body present”. Photo © Fabrice Poiteaux The portico on the Théâtre des Abbesses boasts a quote from Pina Bausch, a genius, sure, but also beloved of those who knew her: “Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost.” ... Over her writing desk, where I often sit procrastinating, my Karine, also beloved of her friends, has a brittle yellowed Post-it note with a quote from, of all people, Augustine of Hippo, a man terrified of the beat of his own heart: O... Continue reading
Posted Jun 8, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Caroline Breton in “Figures” by Charles Chemin, on stage at Ménagerie de Verre, Etrange cargo program 2022. Photo © Ysé-Ysé-Rouy-Giraaud In an obituary for Marie-Thérèse Allier, the founder and leader of the iconic Ménagerie de Verre dance-performance studio, arts journalist Vincent Bouquet, quotes her as saying that the artists she’d worked with over the years “… n’hésitaient pas à casser les codes, à se mêler avec d’autres disciplines… – … never hesitated to break the codes and mix it in with other [arts] disciplines … ”. She went to characterize emerging choreographers as “risk averse”, meaning that she thought new stuff lacks “originality” and “radicality”, words meant as fulsome praise. I think Allier’s remarks bear discussion. Not so much because it’s Allier who said it or because it’s difficult for me to see how a whole “generation” of people can “be” anything at all, let alone “risk averse” - “mediocre” - while another “generation” is “original and “radical”. Her words bear discussion because they are such common adjectives for dance-performance yet make no sense. A glance at the list of La Ménagerie alumni that Bouquet includes in his article – including Régine Chopinot, Philippe Decouflé, Daniel Larrieu, Angelin Preljocaj, Jérôme Bel, Boris Charmatz, Xavier Leroy, Mathilde Monnier, Christian Rizzo, François Chaignaud, Rodrigo Garcia, Yves-Noël Genod, Vincent Macaigne and Théo Mercier – shows technical excellence and much choreographic brilliance in these creators, but, though I’ve seen pieces that have worked well or not so well for me or for the spectators around me, I’ve seen no identifiable “risk-taking”, “originality” or “radicality”. In fact, if I were to take a trip up to Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s famous P.A.R.T.S choreographic hothouse in Belgium, or stroll over to Micadanses or Atelier de Paris CNDC, I’d find artists whose approaches and creations resemble those of La Ménagerie’s stars, of each other as well as those of all European and American choreographers of the last 50 years. Saying there’s nothing original or radical is not to say there’s nothing good. There certainly is. And there’s risk-taking, too, but since that’s in the choreographer’s personal domain, nobody but the choreographer can see it. “Originality” or “radicality” or “risk-taking” are literary notions applied to dance because our critical culture is so story based. You can deviate from a story-line in all sorts of original, risky or radical ways. But what’s to deviate from in movement? What can be original, risky or radical where there’s no deviation? And, in a very real sense, the act of dance is the substance of risk, originality and radicality. A choreography, even with its clumsy and approximate instructions spattered on paper, has no line – no trace – but its already-departing movement, moment and persons. No Swan Lake to dance is Swan Lake dancing or Swan Lake danced. Also, as far as I can judge, contemporary dance spectators don’t go to performances to see risk, originality or radicality in performance. Why would they? They go instead hoping to experience a dance moment... Continue reading
Posted May 26, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Raimund Hoghe’s creative search for “otherwise” is emblematic of Marie-Thérèse Allier’s contribution to the art of movement. Raimund Hoghe, “La Valse”. Photo © Courtesy Ménagerie de Verre La Ménagerie de Verre performance studio, Laboratoire de création contemporaine – in the 11th arrondissement, just off the avenue Parmentier, about mid-way between rue de la Roquette and avenue de la République– is a legendary neighborhood institution. Until very recently it had a very human personality in Marie-Thérèse Allier, its founder and guiding spirit. That ended at the tippy end of March when Allier unexpectedly died, aged 91. I say “unexpectedly died”, because, as with the invasion of Ukraine, despite the flagrant provocation, people of sense and sensibility just had trouble getting their heads around the very idea of her death. I was surprised myself when I heard of it – at the penultimate performance of the annual Spring program, Etrange Cargo 2022. Indeed, Le Monde newspaper reported that Allier was, quite literally, creatively engaged from her hospital room at the hour of her death – doing some last-minute consulting with staff at the opening of the day’s performance. A dancer, not a choreographer, Marie-Thérèse Allier set up La Ménagerie as an artist’s residence and public stage for experimental creations and then kept it that way for almost forty years. Vincent Bouquet, writing in scè, a contemporary performance arts webzine, lists former residents whose work got a first staging at the studio and who have been both influential and popular into the present. They include, just as a sample of those you’re likely to have known earlier or heard about today, Régine Chopinot, Philippe Decouflé, Daniel Larrieu and Angelin Preljocaj, Jérôme Bel, Boris Charmatz, Xavier Leroy, Mathilde Monnier, Christian Rizzo, Olivia Grandville, François Chaignaud, Rodrigo Garcia, Yves-Noël Genod, Vincent Macaigne and Théo Mercier. But identifying Allier with her successful institution or her commitment to supporting successful creative contemporary dance-performance doesn’t represent her full story. More than commitment and practical ability, Allier had an instinct for dance performance that meant that she brought spectators toward what is intriguing in dance and performance. Not new, not experimental, intriguing. From my experience as a spectator over the years, writing about dance or not, Allier seems always to have encouraged her creators to get at spectator imaginations, encouraged them to try for a sense of something that isn’t tied either to convention or radicality or originality. I look over those in the scè list and, among those I have experienced personally, it seems to me that that effort at something intriguing in dance is what characterizes them. Throughout Allier’s career getting at something intriguing often meant cherishing “queerness”, the only operative way, especially into the 2000s, to get a bit beyond the notions of convention, radicality and originality and all that guff. So, at Marie-Thérèse Allier’s La Ménagerie, whether or not I liked or appreciated a piece, whether it connected with me or not, I mostly felt it managed to redeem itself in pointing me toward... Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Sound from music. From sax to rain. “Après tout”, Marie Desoubeaux. Photo © Mireille Huguet My downstairs neighbor, who is of a thrifty persuasion, very often makes his little sprites oatmeal for breakfast – I’ve seen the battered tin pot on his stove, dried-up oatmeal stuck on it. I know when he’s making the stuff – he calls it "porridge" – because our walls are pretty acoustical and he has a peculiar way of tap-scraping the pot in order to knock the last batch of dried-up oatmeal into the new batch: tap-tap-skrishhh. Hearing that tap-tap-skrishhh sound wakes up a lot of feeling, in me, in the sprites, too, probably in their mother, still abed, probably in her thrifty husband. As the neighbor stirs the oats, mood, experience and image bubble thick in all the brains around. My brain, the sprites’ brains, probably the neighbor’s brain, make the sound of oatmeal a soundtrack of our personal movies. I tell myself tap-tap-skrishhh is wake-up music, but it’s not music. It’s just sound that associates to movement and feeling. To become music, tap-tap-skrishhh needs a conjuror to grok the right pattern and choose the appropriate tools to weave that pattern with: tap-tap-skrishhh, skrishhh, skrishhh, tap, Tap-tap a-skrishhh, skrishhh, a skrishhh, tap, skrishhh… Along with, say, a hollow stick, plus, say, some lungs to rhythm the passage of air through the hollow of the stick. Conjuring music is, obviously, no mean feat. But conjuring music while teasing movement into dance seems to me not only a great feat but almost and impossible one, like building a large hadron collider or binding petroleum jelly and heavy water. There are a few music conjurors who are also movement teasers, but not many, which makes them notable. I’m thinking about sound and dance, conjuring music and teasing movement because, three years ago now, at Regard du Cygne, I was so struck by how naturally, artfully, powerfully, choreographer Marie Desoubeaux had bound together sound and movement in making RESTER (“Remain”), as far as I know, her first dance performance creation. I walked out thinking RESTER was not a one-shot, not a happy accident, but that Desoubeaux had that rare knack for twining both essential arts so closely together they seemed one thing. My judgment, I thought, was certainly helped along by the art and power of dancer Margaux Amoros musician Robin Pharo. All the same, I felt it was the “naturalness” of the apparent unity of music and dance in RESTER that upheld my judgment. Music from sound. Set, “Après tout”, Marie Desoubeaux. Photo © Mireille Huguet“ I finally saw a second Desoubeaux creation, Après tout, (“After All”) on 22 March 2022, at Théâtre de Vanves. I feel vindicated: Desoubeaux does have a natural when it comes to putting together sound and movement. Après tout is very different to RESTER. Where RESTER is almost purely music and movement in twilight and seen from hard benches, Après tout is almost theater. Set in an elaborately visual pink-quartz quarry and... Continue reading
Posted Apr 27, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Evening in the dance quarter at the Cartoucherie arts complex, Bois de Vincennes, Paris. Photo © Patrick Berger HERE'S ANOTHER THING for the Paris dance-performance experience bucket list. It’s true I wrote hopefully about Spring not long ago, in an essay about that wonderful flamenco dancer Paula Comitre. But in that essay I meant “Spring” in the moral, allegorical or metaphorical sense and pertaining to Comitre’s refreshing talent. Since it’s now possible to actually enjoy a Paris Spring again. I would like to bubble about, as Karine calls it, true Spring – about running sap, shoots, buds, lilies and iris, all, all unburdened of frost; about robin redbreasts and hapless worms, barking dogs and rollicking brats – about all the real things behind those figures. It’s cold in my apartment, but too warm for the furnace to kick in automatically. Outside my window, a slate-grey sky jets down freezing rain. A brave magpie dogfights a raven as big as a chicken. Yes. But here, inside, I’ve turned on the heat. On my table, I have the advance dance-performance program for the Atelier de Paris’ annual June Events festival. It’s back! June Events 2022 features mostly work I haven’t yet seen by creators whose quality I already know. Pieces range from solos to eight-performer extravaganza. They type largely across the movement arts, from performance to performance-dance to dance. These find their places in the big theater, the studio, the Bois de Vincennes and the Marais. There’s a global, Europe, and France contemporary culture dimension to it, too. Daniel Linehan, US born, working from Belgium, Listen Here: these woods, Listen Here: this cavern; Christos Papadoulos, Larsen C; Ann Van den Broek, Joy, enjoy; Vania Vaneau, Nebula; Ikram Benchrif & Paul Girard, Cherche forêt; Smaïl Kanoute, Yasuke Kurosan; Joanne Leighton, Corps exquis; Catherine Gaudet, L’Affadissement du merveilleux; Mathilde Rance, Black bird. For the rest, I can trust the eye and ear of the Atelier’s artistic direction – if I don’t always like what I experience there, I do quite definitely always experience it. The name “June Events” always tickles me. I like being – theoretically, metaphorically, allegorically, mind – tickled. It’s not the historical allusion to the famous Journées de Juin workers revolt of 1848 that brings the true theoretically-metaphorically tickled smile to my lips, though, even if I do like a good historically-distant worker’s revolt. It’s the dates of the festival that actually move me: 30 May to 18 June 2022. Barring some meteorological equivalent of a surprise barbarian invasion by a wacky fascist with a testosterone-poisoning issue, the weather’s likely to be bearable if it isn’t absolutely splendid on those dates. And splendid weather always augurs well for a good time, whatever the dance performance on offer. There are few places where you can so casually and pleasantly experience dance and performance as you can in the Atelier’s share of the Cartoucherie, just behind the Parc Floral de Paris, just up the avenue from the newly renovated Château de Vincennes. I... Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Hugues Rondepierre, 23, Jean Rochereau, 78. Test. Photo © Brice Pelleschi PUT ANY ONE OF FABRICE RAMALINGOM'S PIECES on your bucket list of to-see Paris dance-performances. You’re bound to experience something both absorbing and creatively finished. At the end of a performance of Une singulière histoire de la danse, Fabrice Ramalingom’s danced biography, I was muttering encyclical-like to myself that “the human person is a mass of figures”. I was thinking of figures as discrete postures of body and mind to which one usually attaches one or multiple words. For instance, the figure of two people clenching: “couple”, “fighting” or “loving”, among many other possible opposites and apposites. As to the mass in the “mass of figures”. When I see a fellow human or, indeed, when I see myself, what I see is the mass of figures acquired through time and accident. The figures pulse and shift upon the unknowable shape of the wordless heart that we both call “you”. And as to Fabrice Ramalingom’s work, I think this figures-on-wordless-heart schema explains at least approximately how his choreography succeeds as capital D Dance. The schema also explains why the man sitting next to me during Générations, the choreographer’s most recent dance performance piece, took a moment to paw the air with hands and eyes before pulling out “bienveillant” to characterize the piece: A.− MORAL. [La bienveillance as a virtue or as behavior]: [Francis] Hutcheson (1694-1746) writes that the essence of virtue in the soul is bienveillance... He defines it thus: “A feeling that leads you to desire your neighbor’s well-being”. . . [the post-Revolutionary philosopher and statesman Hegelian historian Victor] Cousin [1792- 1867], Cours d'hist. de la philos. mod., t. 4, 1847, pp. 149-150. – Dictionnaire : LLF . Also, the schema explains why bienveillant sticks in my head, and why there were so many stung, sparkly-eyed faces among the spectators, including my own. Générations was a relief for me – like my neighbor also said, there is “no eroticism” in it. Let’s tell the truth: fear of accidental eroticism in my inter-male friendships makes me stiffer than actual desire ever will. I don’t think I’m alone. Basically, Ramalingom evokes all this feeling by artfully reducing and arranging the number and impact of figures on the heart. The spectator can better perceive then experience the pulse and shifts of the person. In short, a body can empathize and from empathy, feel what they can’t see or say. Jean Rochereau, Hugues Rondepierre. Don't look at the nails. Photo © Brice Pelleschi GENERATIONS TURNS AROUND A PAIRING of Jean Rochereau and Hugues Rondepierre, respectively, a 78 year old man and a 23 year old man. From the git-go, and with the most apparently inconsequential opening, Ramalingom’s art – the noos in the stage and people set up, the discrete sets of figures, the sequencing of the spectator experience of the latter, the pace of movement and sound-scape – first make it plain, for instance, that age really is relative; for instance, that... Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Simon Tanguy performing “Inging”. Photo©Elian Bachini Although she disdained mostly everybody but her two sisters and her boon girlfriend Dottie, my mother was much involved in good works. Ma mastered the trick of feeding the hungry, comforting the sick and clothing the naked while quite literally holding her nose. Also, she had a natural talent for mimicry. To show her disgust of talkative people, for instance, she would open her mouth wide, wetly blubber “blahblahblah” and roll her hands from her face outward and toward the floor, simulating the trajectory of spurting word-vomit. I bring the matter up because of performer Simon Tanguy’s deft insertion of a similarly excellent wet blabber at exactly the right moment with exactly the right gesture during his performance based on choreographer Jeanine Durning’s Inging at Regard du Cygne the other day. Ma was a fine natural mimic, but Simon Tanguy, having studied matters a bit, is much better, if, perhaps, less terrifying for children. The title “Inging” is a reference to certain signifying qualities of the “progressive and continuous” ing suffix. In Tanguy’s take on “Inging” he suggests that the enemy is not a signifying quality or even a chatty neighbor but words themselves: De do do do de da da da … Tanguy’s performance also suggests that the danger of too many words is not, as it probably was for my mother, intimacy, but exhaustion that leaves you vulnerable. The logic of ‘em, Sting sings, ties you up and rapes you, sure, but Tanguy’s performance suggests to me that the trauma and exhaustion leave you lost to yourself in the fake reality of the The Word. That’s worse: Mirabile dictu! That wine is truly blood; Don’t peek, there’s nobody behind the curtain; Nothing to see here; Donald Trump is the Messiah; Jew Zelensky is a Nazi; Those bombs on Kharkov are good bombs! And so forth, go those lost in The Word. Tanguy’s performance makes of words a broad, impossibly damp, burlap sack. The sack has once carried some putrid, vaguely foreign, vegetable. After a little tickling flattery (using shared references) to let us know we are the right sort of people and a set up that teaches spectators to twist and turn in our seats to follow him with eyes and bodies, in a mere 45 minutes Tanguy gently has descended that sack, drowned the spirit in damp and scratchy discomfort. Two details of Tanguy’s set, both somehow as absurd as sinister, stick in my mind, seem to me to demonstrate how his Inging works through a subtle destabilization of perception and sense. A little camera, just on the verge of audience awareness, apparently films Tanguy as he blahblahblahs at his desk. But the image is nowhere projected, ‘though, on the wall to the right, also just on the verge of awareness, are three silent earnest looping, looping, looping, talking, talking, talking heads talking with easy passion. Can Tanguy be filming himself just for filming? Can he be doing it for some... Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
In a key of turbulence. "Ceux qui vont contre le vent", cie Nathalie Béasse. Photo © C. Raynaud de Lage There are things that really should appear on the New York Times Letters page. When a letter gets in the Times Letters page, why, it gets read by Letters page readers, those guys and girls who linger a bit over morning coffee before making the world. I once wrote a letter to the Letters page. I criticized Singapore’s then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yu’s hare-brained “Asian Values” campaign. The Times Letters page folks have the noos to know when a should-publish looks ‘em straight in the eye; events proved that my writing to them was the right thing. Ye shall know them by their works, sayeth the prophet. Stung by my words, the faux philosophe of Singapore thundered an unseemly and intemperate reply to the Times, also dispatching a copy of it to my student address at the University of Buffalo. Are you listening, Times Letters page? Here’s another should-publish. Angers, France, -based playwright Nathalie Béasse has won the “Beyond Words Values” award “for cultivating insight into the dynamics of human perception and un-story in theater performance”. The “Beyond Words Values” award means that Nathalie Béasse is in the vanguard in shaping up a theatrical lineage to go along with a less Word-centered world. It’s a big deal. As a poet, I’ve always been suspicious of the Word – it is hard to work with, not accurate as to actual experience and is dangerously hypnotic for user and hearer alike. For instance, the flattening urban space in and outside of Kharkov, Ukraine, certainly suggests that material destruction and living misery go well beyond what can be said of them – the dangerous hypnotism that preceded it goes without saying. And, if nothing else, those burnt out Russian tanks from the sixth Battle of Kharkov show that humanity has got itself tangled into a pretty desperate story loop this past century and more. I welcome any creative endeavor that diminishes the power of the Word. It is not for nothing that Hell is described as the kingdom of noise: turning down the volume makes for instant relief. Anything that even slightly lowers the buzz and pop of the Word exponentially increases the power of sympathy, sensibility and imagination. Béasse’s approach to theater does that, vitiates the hectoring Word, increases the power of sympathy, sensibility and imagination. For me, her approach has a lot in common with “capital D” Dance: stressing feeling over narrative, mutual experience over moralizing or exegesis, respecting the physics of perception over imposing dramatics. In a social key. "Ceux qui vont contre le vent", cie Nathalie Béasse. Photo © Jérôme Blin So, as she might shape plastics and metals to open spectator perceptions onto the color, shade and texture of a thing, Béasse, who began her creative career as a visual/material artist, in her plays shapes relations among human beings into positions of entry onto an “un-story” (that is,... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Nelly Celerine signifying doubly in "An Immigrant's Story" by Wanjiru Kamyuyu. Photo©Anne Volery/ Palais de la Porte Dorée I’ve never mentioned the very kind and excellent teachers I have had – especially including the SUNY-Buffalo teaching assistant who gave me Adrienne Rich’s 1962 Prospective Immigrants Please Note in 1976. Prospective Immigrants is a manual of human physics, a starting perception for my long-long unfinished grapple toward self-liberation – Either you will/go through this door/or you will not go through If you go through/there is always the risk/of remembering your name. – … That would be my realization that when, back in 1959, Great Grandma Steinmetz pleaded with us to push away the 10-foot tall, one-ton oak armoire looming over the bed where she lay dying, she was neither imagining sad things nor whining unwomanly. The scene is literary, Sherwood-Anderson ghoulish and amusing. It seems doing a small thing in a great world to take a poor old dying lady's fears seriously, yes? All the same, thanks to Adrienne Rich, I know this perplexing dream-memory of a toddler is a primal step toward my self-liberation. I’ve even come to see that tolerance is fraud and only the sincerest pricks talk of charity. Nowadays, if you ask me to lift a dead rhinoceros off your back, I swear, I’ll try, I'll gladly heave hard as ever I can, gratis, no questions asked, no thanks necessary. Things look at you doubly/and you must look back/and let them happen. Imagine my pleasure to see my human physics manual made into – Almighty Christ! What else could it be made into, a serious poem like Prospective Immigrants? – a dance performance called An Immigrant’s Story. Created and performed by the very thoughtful Kenyan & American Wanjiru Kamuyu, An Immigrant’s Story premiered at the newly inaugurated Musée de l’Immigration at Porte Dorée last year. It was then taken up by the annual Faits d’Hiver dance-performance festival. I saw it at Espace 1789, an excellent (and successful) multimedia venue in the near-Paris suburb of St. Ouen. When I told Wanjiru Kamuyu about Rich’s poem during the meet-and-greet in the bar after the performance, she made it clear to me that her manual of human physics has developed independent of the dead Canadian poet. It's comforting to understand that Rich's lines exist without her, not only in my head, but in the ether I share with beautiful strangers. Kamuyu said she'd read it. Thinking it over, I guess I shall take Wanjiru Kamuyu’s choreographic meter & foot as a sort of Large Hadron Collider for Truth & Beauty that proves with a new energy in a new rig what was before, for me, but the occasional and accidental symmetry of immortal hand and eye. I mean, An Immigrant's Story makes Prospective Immigrants be. More than symmetry. Nelly Celerine, dance performer, left, on stage with choreographer Wanjiru Kamuyu. Photo© Anne Volery/ Palais de la Porte Dorée Kamuyu was born in Kenya to an American mother who was there, no... Continue reading
Posted Feb 21, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Paula Comitre and Lorena Nogal figuring a Spring "Alegorias (El limite y sus mapas)". Photo©Ivan Alcazar Sat straight back, in shirtsleeves, hands on knees on the edge of a seat crowded with my winter rig: duvet jacket, hoodie, scarf. The whole of my attention is on the elegant and joyful riot of Paula Comitre’s duo, Alegorias (El limite y sus mapas). Then I sense Spring. Like dear old Mole in Wind in the Willows, sudden joy splutters up my spine. Attention broken, I sniff the air, glance eyes only slowly from side to side – Rattie? Toad? Badger? There’s an unknown perfume to the air, a strange blur to the light. Not Spring, but a Spring. A Spring of buds, not blooms. One of questioning over expectation. Thunder in a clear sky, ripples in a still pond. Alegorias (El limite y sus mapas), “Parable (The map’s edge)”, is just this – excited Mole feeling along the seams and textures of the huge black polyurethane tarp that is thrown over time to come, scrabbling at its intriguing shapes and contours … trying hard to descry time’s always-near country. By the complex operation of quantum mechanics on human physics, the tarp is the same my parents used to cover the tomato starts down at the farm. And just so, in just such an intense, searching groove, Paula Comitre and partner Lorena Nogal tune and twist their Flamenco to channeling, spirit and sex and appropriately, pretty much the entire repertory of modern, classic and contemporary dance. Comitre and Nogal power-skip over every millimeter of that obscure tarp. They call in Spain’s clichés. Sancho Panza – Look! That woman with her hair-pulled back hard enough to hurt is mumming a bull! There! Ferdinand the Bull: old sour pusses in mantillas, fat men with wens sweating as the toreador draws blood, tight black flaring bell-skirts… They foot stomp! They ignite booming and rattling drums and clashes of cymbal, careen through stage mechanicals, figure under savvy lighting. They get in behind curtains, tear them down, wear them. They wind up like gorgeous cobras thrilling as whiskey-voiced hidalgos caterwaul to peripatetic guitar plunkers. My smiling eyes taste imperial brocade, insatiable women of iron, desire so tight none’s ever got in… It’s too much and so much that it’s just perfect. That’s talent, I reckon. I hope she keeps it up, especially the dance channeling. The people around me, who look like they know a lot more about every damn little thing than I ever will, they think she’s perfect, too. They slap their hands together and some even cry Olé! For them, none of this searching and skipping has landed amiss, nothing has fallen astray. For them, Paula Comitre’s Pure Flamenco. OK. As for me, squinty old Mole carried away in a Spring, I’m thinking it’s Paula Comitre, 27, and her whole generation might be under that old black tarp. As a vision, it sure beats bare-chested Vladimir Putin riding a hypersonic missile. Alegorias (El limite y... Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Jessica Bonamy and her Cie Safra explore choreography as silent language. A diversity of intention in dance-performance is the most striking characteristic of Regard du Cygne’s programming. Photo©2021 Rachel Krief I think the last dance performanceI saw – or, at least, the one that touched me most, personally – before shuffling off through a two-year health emergency and into a 2022 at the brink of a European war for lost empire was Amy Swanson’s Ma Robe (“My Gown”) at the studio Regard du Cygne, in Belleville, in Paris’ 20th arrondissement. As I recall, the show was fun and I felt good afterwards. There was in it the immediate enthusiasm of the kids next to me for that great heavy satin gown twirling that gave new depth of sincerity to their squeaky j’adores, a remembrance of Karine’s love for “a skirt that twirls”, a thought that for Isadora Duncan dance was a link to a truer (or: ancient-er) religion, a thought that both Buddhist “forest” monks and Sufi devotees twirl themselves into altered consciousness. I thought then that dance is probably about that, altering consciousness, like one can with peyote or something 60s like that. Since then, I’ve come to think that Dance, capital “D”, is about entering the state of Imagination, capital “I”. The mark of that is feeling good after a performance. Regard du Cygne – now with nearly 40 years of intentions and choreographers and dance-performances layered into it, reopened post-pandemic this past Fall – putting together and producing its annual Signes d’Automne program. At the little studio, a piece may leave me hot or cold or puzzled, but it always feels right: there’s a will to open to Dance, however it forms itself in the minds of its latest movers and shapers and, also, give young ideas a shot. Plus, dance lessons, kid-shows, family days, short films and conferences. I've put in links to the artists in the latest program, Signes de Printemps, posted below, which will give an idea of the diversity of performance intention involved. Christina Towle, Regard du Cygne’s artistic director, says of the autumn re-opening that even when things were “rock and roll” – stressful – it was just “beautiful”. She cites the spontaneous enjoyment of the family day, especially strong performances, such as choreographer-dancer Rebecca Journo’s one-woman L’Epouse (“The Bride”) or un-reproduceably fine creative moments such as composer-pianist-choreographer Aurélien Richard’s Impromptus. The stress, Towle says, came from Covid-related filling and backfilling of a program that the studio strives to keep “a little underground”: emerging choreographers, and “people who aren’t yet on everybody’s playlist”. Regard du Cygne, along with the association Mains d’Oeuvres in the near-suburb of Saint Ouen, she says, remains one of the few dance-performance studios that will run unknowns. Contemporary dance production tends to be open to evolution anyway, Towle says, and a lot of the studio’s programming is works-in-progress. What with the shutdowns, lockdowns, cancellations and plain old time between creation and production, “three or four projects had transformed... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Like Dance, capital “D”, Kiefer’s show is a “whole” in constant movement: everything around it is in it and everything within it can be found outside it. That includes Grand Palais Ephémère, an enormous technical construction that has been repurposed as a bubble of space in a sort of Empty Quarter behind the Eiffel Tower, on Place Joffre, facing a dilapidated building that may have been, in Joffre’s glory days, death registrations. View from the exhibition “Anselm Kiefer pour Paul Celan”, Grand Palais Ephémère©Georges Poncet-Réunion des musées nationaux, Grand Palais, 2021 Karine & I were delighted when we saw that the Grand Palais was holding an exposition called ”Anselm Kiefer Pour Paul Celan”. A pandemic wet dream. Great visual art plus enough space to keep any virus concentrations in the air very low. Kiefer honors the work of the remarkable German-language lyric poet by integrating his (Celan’s) words and lines and sense and sensibility into Kiefer’s own visual lyric. We even came back to Paris a little earlier than usual to make sure to see it. The experience of the show got me wondering all at once about the scope of dance creation. The logic of this wonder is of course complex. In part, I began wondering because I was struck with Anselm Kiefer’s, the show curators’ and Paul Celan’s intention and deliberation, with the venue’s place, placement and statement in its immediate environment. In part, I was struck with the show’s space, volume, size, light, shadow, with the editorial in the in the walls and ceilings, positions, with visual inventions, sculpted models and found objects, with tools, materials, material and immaterial effects… In part, I began wondering because of wider-world references in the show: Kiefer’s effect on Celan and Celan’s lyric world and on the sense of these effects Kiefer. Then there’s my own thinking on art structures in general and on dance structures in particular (see: Move that Cat, ‘Cleitus), thoughts on the indistinguishability of intention and accident (see: Machine de Cirque). And finally maybe a bit more in part than my other in-parts, the effects of a long chat I had with the dancer, choreographer, intellectual Mylène Benoît on why she thinks dance is an essential human need. Kiefer’s show is a “whole show” in constant movement: everything around it is in it and everything within it can be found outside it. The neighborhood where it was held was pandemic-appropriate: at the Grand Palais Ephémère, a temporary annex to the Palais, which is in renovation. Ephémère is an enormous technical construction that has been repurposed as a bubble of space in a sort of urban Empty Quarter behind the Eiffel Tower, on Place Joffre, facing a dilapidated building that we suspect – Karine and I spent our time in line theorizing – it may have been, in Joffre’s glory days, death registrations. Altogether, the Ephémère space, seeming made-to-order for pandemic times, is also an excellent piece of psycho-esthetic engineering where Kiefer’s art was to best advantage. But,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
As a spectator, for me Mickaël Phelippeau’s "De Françoise à Alice" happens especially around ‘intimacy’: looking (both ways), feeling (both ways), touching (both ways), talking (both ways)... Photo©FRAL_Philippe Savoir We’ve all been getting booster shots self-quarantining these past couple of weeks. Karine remarked to me how differently different people are affected by them. She gets a sore arm, for instance, while a day goes by and then I get three days of a mild but depressing cold. Another friend faints, yet another gets so sick she moans she would have done better to get the damned disease naturally. Another has no idea what we’re talking about. The Covid virus too is now different to what it was before, more contagious: at least three people have called me recently to warn me they’ve tested positive. In nearly two years this has never happened. So, in addition to watching and hearing about the different reactions among people in my circle, I’ve been standing around a lot more in the local pharmacy, watching how differently different perfect strangers take all this different common Covid experience. Too much testing myself has affected me. I have become very ambivalent about having my nose reamed by a long cotton swab. I would now rather silently submit to an improvised enema from Nurse Ratched than undergo yet again one of these five-second nose swabbings. I have noticed, though, that nobody else in the impossible swarms of those getting tested seems especially troubled by the swabbing experience. Even so, testing is making me nervouser and nervouser. As I write, I have said ‘No’ to a home test before hosting a perfectly legal, eight-person New Year’s gathering… I shall instead bury myself at the foot of my bed unless an enraged Karine insists on testing that Nurse Ratched/enema proposition. Has my ‘difference’ – fear and loathing of to Covid testing – crossed into mental ‘disability’? Has difference crossed from ‘can’ do to ‘can’t do’ such that I no longer function in the normal range of humans? Ridiculous idea. Just because you get a little fed up with something, you don’t slip from your god-given “difference” to “disability” surely… you can still choose… Right? I have been thinking a lot about “difference” and “disability” for the past couple days, since I saw a mother-daughter dance performance called De Françoise à Alice, choreographed by Mickaël Phelippeau. It appears I’m not the only one to be struck by the performance. It has another date at a new annual arts show at Carreau du Temple called Everybody, so, who knows, perhaps you’ll be able to see it! Everybody, which is open to ‘every body’ in every sense, starts in mid-February and features visual arts, physical training techniques and dance-performance. It’s programming turns, of course, around difference, associating themes such as gender, consciousness and sexuality. For instance, Marta Izquierdo Munoz’s excellent woman-warrior piece Guérillères is featured alongside Annabel Guérédrat’s I’m a Bruja (‘bruja’ = witch) with performances (or performers) that touch on “disability” by... Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
“Guérillères” worked on me like a charm; as I watch it all makes perfect sense; especially, I have space to see the nonsense in it – Photo©MarcCoudrais Sex. Gender. A couple years ago, my class was talking about the puzzle of sex education. Why is there no sex education? Everybodysays they want it, but, somehow, nobody ever gets anything but an embarrassed cough. Tom, to whom Senator Josh Hawley, R-Nostalgia, and Rudyard Kipling before him, would point as a flower of the race – Indeed a boy: gifted with a penis, handsome, sweet, intelligent, with just the right whiff of privilege – speaks up. He says something like, Resistance to sex education is unconscious, mass-scale reaction, a silent barricade against Universal Liberty. If the people really knows about sex, he concludes, Goodbye, gender. And, Goodbye gender means, comrades, Hello, Revolution! Silence. One thinks of Danton. Tom’s eyes glitter. Juliette’s breast visibly heaves. She frowns. We found Wonderland and life was never worse and never better / … Strangers watching and whispers turn to talking and talking turns to screams… Tom’s right, of course. Ignorance about the “sex impulse”, as George Orwell I think used to put it, complicates undoing our gender knots. And there is a shared conspiracy of silence around sex that keeps gender at the center of our lives. But the question is, as it always is for everything, what to do until we get to utopia? Josh Hawley, et al., are clear on their narrative: a racially-healthy Boy’s Own world trains its boys for the militia and fits its girls for wedding veils. On the other hand, as Tom and Juliette et al. claw, thrash and groan toward universal Aquarian liberation, at least part of the story-line is to let the girls play at warriors, just like the boys… like, uh, equal employment opportunity. All this reflection on sex and gender bubbled up as I watched Marta Izquierda Munoz and her [lodudo] producciontroupe’s very entertaining, very informed, very well-played Guérillères dance performance at the Atelier de Paris the other evening. “Guérillères” got me wondering whether the cult of Amazons isn’t hiding its own racially-healthy “Girl’s Own” scenario: train the females for the militia then fit on wedding veils – Photo©MarcCoudrais Guérillères – “Guerillas” – bills itself as a “choreographic tableau of a community in action,” that is “chaotic, organic and utopian”. Guérillères pairs with another piece, Imago-Go, a 2018 creation featuring a “slightly dysfunctional” and stiff band of baton-twirling majorettes. For the Atelier production of Guérillères, I was particularly struck by the costuming. As the troupe moves through a catalogue of Amazon – girl-warrior – gestures and poses, I am constantly aware of fuzzy garters against flesh and the girl-warrior tropes represented on each performer’s tee-shirt. As I watch, the fuzzy garters remind me of an underlying eroticism in the action without pointing a type of sexuality. The tee-shirt images feature three Amazon brands: Wonder Woman-like bosoming-invincibility, a smooth-thighed mistress of the Thyrsus (you know, those magic-phallus... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2021 at The Best American Poetry
Petter Jacobson’s “Air condition” opens the Nancy Opera’s “Ready Made” 21-22 season. Photo©2021 Emilie-Salquebre Originally laid out to impose rational charm on what I get the impression was a rather higgledy-piggledy daily reality, there is a lot to be said for 18th-century provincial cities such as Nancy. That rational charm remains hard at work in our topsy-turvy 21st century. From the (tidy, practical) rail station to the picture-postcard place Stanislaus, the French take on “appreciate” comes to mind: the eye weighs without judgement, our sensibility pleased but not teased by well-kept and commodious Art-Nouveau buildings added into, around and within the softened but well-ordered lines and stylized gorgon-medallions of the little city’s Age-of-Reason-style baroque. Inside and out, Nancy’s opera house, on the place Stanislaus, the destination of my walk and where I was to see Petter Jacobson and Thomas Caley’s brand new Air Condition dance performance for the Ballet de Lorraine, recalls this same rational charm. Reconstructed with the new materials and methods developed and used by Art Nouveau and with its place in the urban environment as esthetic baseline, the turns on spectator experience and performance needs seriously: it calls attention to itself only as its design, space and decoration lend themselves to experience and need. Nice place, Nancy! In the mix of wider cultural themes – the Baroque, Art Nouveau – it seems to me that Nancy enjoys a continuity of local intentions and perspectives that create the city’s present moment. Nancy is its own unique place. And without my being able to put my finger on exactly why, this sense of continuity needs the breaks and punctuations of the randomly preserved fractions of mine-worker housing and randomly-sited contemporary metal-plastic-glass-on-asphalt-in-grass residence-asteroids glimpsed from the train. Also the fashionable clothing in the shop windows, the people on the streets and cafés and the unexpected surge of people coming into the opera house to see the show. Maybe the continuity needs pointing so we can make sense of it as a “present moment”. As I went in the door of the opera, got my tickets and looked around, I was actually thinking: Is continuity of intention a continuity of place and people shaping each other over time?; is “past” a pastiche of intention that consciousness automatically orders to keep me sane?; is past therefore a retroactive simulacrum of present? By synchronicity, as I lounged in my seat and went over the program, I learned that “Ready Made”, the 2021-22 thematic for the Ballet de Lorraine’s four performances and Air condition, the first of the four, turn around “movement of the visualized world”. In other words, the pieces explore qualities such as “continuity”: “time”, “duration”, the “present”, “past” or “time” with bodies in movement. Air Condition starts up Ready Made’s exploring of the time theme with a production based on Yves Klein’s 1954 unproduced ballet, La Guerre (de la ligne et de la couleur). Klein wanted La Guerre to materialize in bodies and movement the immateriality of his work on line... Continue reading
Posted Nov 25, 2021 at The Best American Poetry
The eye of the storm “That is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know” - Lesley Gore, 1964 Last Spring, in the aftermath of a social media harassment incident involving some of my students, I was chatting about internet trolling and trolls with one of the victims, Ariadne – an aptly-named and particularly bright star in physics. Ariadne has developed a trollus-ex-machina theory that explains internet trolling’s inelegant peevishness, as well what seems to be an increasing number of internet users who adopt a troll posture – a sort of diffuse pugnaciousness, she means. She says that we usually think that when we yell at, for instance, a malfunctioning coffee maker, we are anthropomorphizing – imagining the metal and plastic thing as if it were another human to whom we could transfer our pain or whom we could hold responsible for our pain – you know, like our favorite human punching bag, souffre-douleur, scapegoat. There’s no such anthropomorphizing going on, she says. Whether we know it or not, when something is a machine, we treat it as a machine, we treat it as we do other, less developed, stuff and things; we’re yelling at the coffee maker because it’s something people do. She goes on to say that because we access the internet with machines – the “hardware” – behavior there is shaped by an (unacknowledged) belief that internet activity is machine interface, not a form of human interaction. In other words, while users tell themselves their pithy “tweets”, or however we call verbal sallies these days, are bits of human-human interaction, their mental mode is machine interface: yelling at the coffee maker. In respect to trolls and trolling, the upshot of Ariadne’s theory is that internet behavior owes more to internet users’ belief about their relationship to “stuff” and “things” than to an individual user’s poor grasp of successful human communications. Ariadne’s theory has terrifying implications, though as I opened my eyes increasingly wide with dismay as I listened, it wasn’t clear to me she really understood why. Likely, she isn’t yet fully aware that contemporary humans mostly believe the “things” and “stuff” of the world are almost entirely survival tools put at their disposition by some sort of cosmic IKEA. Nor is it likely she has yet realized that, as a practical expression of this belief in the nature of the world around, no doubt with an exception somewhere, human societies operate value systems that dispose all stuff and things in terms of their utility for humans and human goals. “Utility”, when it comes to things and stuff, spins down to individuals as life in a system of ownership/non-ownership: behavior in respect to stuff or things is entirely determined by whether you or somebody else “claims” them. As long as some stuff or some thing has no other “claimant” or if the “lawful claimant” is “I/we”, we can do what I/we feel with it. She probably hasn’t fully grasped that, in our particular... Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2021 at The Best American Poetry
Toward a more perfect education: Carole Bordes, “Danser Mattox”, a dancing talk, Bien Fait! 2021, at Regard du Cygne Before the lock downs of the past year and more, I liked participating in Micadanses-inspired performances. I say “participating” because the pieces usually presented work all along the line as what I call a happening-feeling-encountering that gets a body participating in the act of Imagination. Imagination’s what the art of movement fosters chez the human and that’s why, as Mr. Darcy justly observes, every savage can dance. If we humans had a mite more Imagination to hand, we wouldn’t still be living in a civilization based on fire-powered wheeled carts. Also, there may be other factors. The Micadanses establishment is near Le Louis Philippe – named for the last “King of the French”, a weirdly nostalgic revolutionary notion – a restaurant which now charms me with its un-plumbable air of the 60s, introduced to me by Karine, my significante, who went to school nearby. Why, one expects a couple of existentialists to roll up front of the place in a tin-pot 2-chevaux. Karine says Le Louis Philippe has been its current, somehow cramped, self since she was just another snotty 16-year old. She means that in 50 years there has been no essential alteration to the place or the ambiance breathed through its marble-iron-glass sun-porch style w/ narrow garden half-heartedly plumped up by ornamental bushes deftly strangled up in chicken wire and basted in the ceaseless traffic noise from the quay. That’s why she brought me there in the first place, Karine says: she can be 16, 66, snotty and together with me, with room for her memories, too. Anyhow, since the pandemic, I’ve come to have a warm, even homey, feeling about the Micadanses studios which, from the exterior, are just another boxy, austere faux-what style public building. Also it’s just down the street from the Shoah memorial, overcrowded with sadnesses big and little. I broke out in accrued homey feeling last February, when Valentine Nagata-Ramos invited me there for a “WIP” performance of her Be.Girls piece.The invite brought about a change of mental paradigm which the new feeling about Micadanses may have used to slide into my psycho-affective construct. In the Februarys of the childhood experiences which make my paradigm, the folks used to yank us kids out of school for a spell of rough and chilly camping on Cape Hatteras. Big and small, we’d just disappear from school. Puff!, as gone as if beamed up by aliens, then reappear some weeks later, Poof!, beamed down in mid-stride, as it were. My folks knew the true secret to doing as you please, thank you. Do it and shut up. As “Ma” – my mother figure – made us understand, this private school vacation caper was so she and “Dad” – my father symbol – could assure themselves that the world hadn’t really frozen into a hard, grey blob. On Hatteras, there were at least roiling clouds and boiling sea,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2021 at The Best American Poetry
A couple of Johanna Faye’s Black Sheep dancing at, in, a point of transition – Palais de Chaillot, 18 September 2021 I wonder if our civilization’s habit of building everything as an impossible play on a log cabin will be flushed out by the boiling floods and freezes of climate change? Will we come up with something that responds to our current needs and environment instead of harking back to forgotten fears of a big, chilly oak forest inhabited by grumpy gods? I began wondering about this when I was at a program called Chaillot Experience, one of the events that Rachid Ouramdane, newly director of the newly-officialized Théâtre National de la Danse at the old Palais de Chaillot, is using to set a tone for a dance performance that, as he told Arte TV earlier this year, picks and chooses energies and movement in the world around. Chaillot Experience used access and waiting space as performance space; there was no attempt to transform the palace’s restored art deco corridors, foyers and entries into anything else, just to show that dance can happen in them, too. Come to think of it, maybe those ordinary movements - entry, exit, waiting, watching - are dance essences, too … Rachid Ouramdane, director of the Théâtre National de la Danse at the Palais de Chaillot, points to the dance in places, people and things where where before there was only movement My part of the Experience was catching tightrope walker Nathan Paulin in the corner of my eye from the plate glass windows of the palace’s grand foyer while glancing around to see where the acrobatic troupe Cie XY was and what it was doing as it messily tumbled through the stairs and hallways. Johanna Faye’s Cie Black Sheep dancers covered the palace’s transitional spaces – breaks, branchings, landings, thresholds – with a Spectacle déambulatoire which winkled out this’ll-do-nicely niches for a variety of short, thrilling performances. Over the public address system, Paulin, barely a speck against the ironwork of the famous tower, continuously commented his 700-meter progress from the Eiffel tower to the palace’s esplanade, even as the rope swayed and gave way in the gusting wind. Faye’s this’ll-do-nicely niche-ing reminded me of the emerging erotic energy around my high-school friend Evie’s at-homes before parents and school authorities noticed and stamped it out. Faye’s Black Sheep can dance. Cie XY seems to have eliminated gendering in their show, putting women on the bottom as well as on top of those dare-devil climbs and muscle clusters acrobats do. I thought it a sign or portent, if Janus-faced. Strong, delighted ladies, look sharp! If the Texas Taliban doesn’t forbid sinful clothes and declare y’all pregnant-in-principle, anyhow, I predict, gasp, adequate, if not yet free, public toilets in the very near future. What got the log-cabin architecture riff into my brain the first place was a chance remark by an architect. She works on the team tasked with reconverting the Palais de la Porte Dorée from... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2021 at The Best American Poetry
"Les Merveilles", Clédat&Petitpierre. Photo© Y.Clédat Belmondo is dead! I’ve put up mosquito netting around the bed to protect Karine and, though mosquitoes have heretofore been thought to turn their proboscises from a knave’s corruption, to protect myself. At 06.30 hours in the second week of September, at 48.8566° N, the sky already lours hot and grey. At 08.00 hours, as I set out Karine’s tisane, the celestial scowl disperses before a pitiless sun. Heretofore, the sun trope has been stock for bright Timbuktu, not gray Paris. As the day smolders towards evening, showers of hot, fat raindrops eruct; the drops are heavy enough to slap, all too apt to turn to hail. About 40 years ago now, an article in the NYRB observed that the only known example of a planet-scale runaway greenhouse effect is Venus. It is 800°Celsius inside the planet’s perpetual methane-cum-co2 self-generating storm system. “Self-generating storm system” suggests to me that the milder effects coming up here on Earth are more likely to have driven our species to extinction well before things get as warmed up and wild as on our sister planet. If the pandemic has proved anything at all, it’s that pure motives and reasonable plans notwithstanding, changing circumstances and a full third of people will oppose you and your damnable, liberty-killing plans. "Panique", Clédat&Petitpierre. Pan cannot play his pipes yet. He can get on his legs and hump. Some say Pan is the son of Hermès. Photo©Y.Clédat No matter that denying climate change has clearly failed to prevent obvious and dangerous climate change. The third is now spreading the depressing lie that it’s too late to act against the inevitable catastrophe: Be free! Consume, for tomorrow you die! When the depression tactic fails, the third will turn to applauding sabotage. Out of a spite that the third will dress up as an understandable “human need for revenge”. As Pogo said: “We have met the enemy and He is Us”. Given the complexity of the phenomenon and the human challenge, the junk exercise of “thinking outside the box” won’t do. Positivism backed by little hops in good, solid science by good people just will not compass hot spells that cripple the young and kill the old or cold snaps that can freeze-dry woolly mammoths. Nor can solid science by good people inspire the Trotsky-like determination to execute and defend a social action plan that might let the species survive in the face of immanent catastrophe. In Isaac Asimov’s Foundation story, the shower-obsessed space buccaneer hero Trevor is given a choice between melding with Earth and or remaining a “free” individual, “remaining human”. Trevor chooses to remain a space buccaneer hero, rejecting sexual freedom and powerful women, and flying off to conquer the universe and become as gods, presumably. "Les Mariés", Clédat&Petitpierre. Parc de Bercy. Photo©Y.Clédat Asimov was presenting the choice and the outcome as most of the species still frames it (for more on this type of stuff, see my essay on ordinary-folks’ philosopher Michel... Continue reading
Posted Sep 15, 2021 at The Best American Poetry
Movement: Seven images same object, "Abri-Trou" E. Saint-James©Bernard Bousquet/Le Générateur 2021 When I see my baby/What do I see?/Poetry/Poetry in motion…/Her lovely locomotion/Keeps my eyes wide open …See her gentle sway ?/ A wave out on the ocean/Could never move that way!/ Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa/Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa/Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa Whoa!/Poetry in motion! - Poetry in motion, Johnny Tillotson, 1960 I was to see Elisabeth Saint-Jalmes’ Abri-Trou, “Sheltering-hole”, an installation at Le Générateur the other day. I dragged myself off the Blood-Red Récamier and went all the way across town, on a Sunday, at nap time… On Karine’s bike! And all that, while feeling a certain reluctance to fling myself into crowds of strangers in these days of what has shaped up as The Phony Lockdown… I made the effort because, at Le Générateur, quite apart from the liberating pleasure in “being there with”, and whatever the shape a performance piece there takes, there’s something in it. If a it can sometimes fails as art, it hardly ever fails as entertainment. In short, Le Générateur performance pickers have a knack for spotting well-made work. The knack of picking performance well is rooted, I think, in an implicit grasp of an “art of movement”, of what makes artin a work of movement. The notion of an “art of movement”, which I’ve previously associated with live performance (On the value of being there with) seems most often used to name “identifiable” dance pieces and performance intended as dance, but seems to spontaneously classify almost any performance that nobody is comfortable formally classifying. Movement: Seven images same object, "Abri-Trou" E. Saint-James©Bernard Bousquet/Le Générateur 2021 As I see it, this is because “movement” is a short, plausible answer to the question, “What’s all that about?”: “It’s about the world, it’s about movement – all works of movement move”. And intellectually, that response is as satisfyingly insufficient today as “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, --that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know” was in its time. Also, “movement” suggests that “startlement” stands in as a non-narrative equivalent to “dramatic tension”. We can then say that movement and drama “a (formal ordered sequence) of wake up calls” that mark out a shape to perception. In respect to a work of movement, whatever a critic, creator or performer may say about other aspects of their experience or intention – and usually it’s something political, meta-political or moral – movement succinctly covers all or virtually all of the free-for-all of intention and technique that make of a performance a work of movement rather than, say, a work of narrative. At ground level, the notion of a work of “movement” binds together history, performance genres and concepts. In a way that “a work of dance” could not, “movement” unites the sacred of dance in antiquity to the art in Monteverdi’s Orfeo in Mantua and the Great King’s Ballet de la nuit with Isadora Duncan’s heart, with Radhouane El Meddeb’s Swan Lake in... Continue reading
Posted Aug 18, 2021 at The Best American Poetry
“People United”, Joanne Leighton. Photo: Patrick Berger 2021 Children, behave!/That’s what they say when we’re together!/ And watch how you play!/They don’t understand/ And so we’re runnin’ just as fast as we can/ holdin’ on to one another’s hand,/ tryin’ to get away into the night,/and then you put your arms around me and we tumble to the gound/and then you say, ‘I think we’re alone now!”/The beating of our hearts is the only sound… Tommy James and the Shondells, 1967 Paris’ performance spaces are set to open on 19 May. After three lovely days of six performances at the Atelier de Paris’s audience limited and socially-distanced “platforme professionnel”, I want that. I really want it. I long for it. I am not the only one longing, either. Since late March, like Robert P. Tristram Coffin’s Maine Auntie tying to wish up the telephone to call a quack on the mainland, my pal Huang has been willing the Avignon festival into renewed existence. However, the general tone is on-verra-bien, of battle-weary poilus. Everybody’s sick of everything, whether of the know-nothing yahoos on the right, woe-is-my-purse business types or the jumpy government, afraid things will bugger all at the last minute. Tempted by tastes of pleasure like Atelier de Paris’ lovely plateforme professionel and longing just to get on with it, I still just don’t know if an opening really should happen this coming Wednesday. My doubt is part partial observation, part gloomy signs and portents, part finicky rationality, part home truth. Some years back, it seems I inherited that little bird who used to shamelessly tittle-tattle my lies and evasions to my mom. This damnable volatile witters on in a voice pitched between feu-mon doux frère gasping his last prophecy and Cardi-B cheerfully praising her own twat. “Trace,” croons the bird, “Six weeks on and this so-called world’s-second-greatest-market and super-power-in-its-own-right has vaccinated you once… Not the best of vaccine choices, neither. … And, this R -.75 notwithstanding, the overall data’s no thrill – look at those clusters on the cloud graph … Trace,” sneers my little bird, “Tracy. Is it any wonder that Avignon – then, as now, a dense honeycomb of tiny, airless rooms sweltering inside a stone labyrinth of narrow, humid passages – is most famous for a truly legendary losing bout with the Black Death? … And. Tracy,” the bird pauses for effect, “Listen… When all is said and done, doesn’t contemporary France, private and public, plexiglass, steel and concrete France, conserve, preserve and just still stink with a cheek-by-buttocks social architecture and social organization worthy of medieval Avignon? ”…. I’ve got my doubts indeed. But, finally, the Atelier de Paris’ excellence has shown me a better way. In fact, I’ve already said yes to the opening of the Printemps Arab festival on the day. Damn the torpedoes! And all that. What made the Atelier so persuasive? Programmers usually try to capture what’s in the air, what’s good, what’s hip. But, at least this time, the Atelier... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2021 at The Best American Poetry
Photo: Courtesy Atelier de Paris What you gonna do when you get out of jail? I'm gonna have some fun And what do you consider fun? Fun, natural fun The Genius of Love, Tom Tom Club I got a thrill when the Atelier de Paris’ newsletter appeared in my inbox the other day. “Thrill”? Aren’t thrills reserved for moments of life, like the moment when I first touched the cool, dry hand of the – these days – pale, vaguely adipose, woman just behind me, limbs lopping deadlike off our blood-red Récamier? The livelong day now, this woman hogs the whole of our empty ceiling with her disgruntled stare. The stare, I must say, in its hint of godlike irony, is a work of esthetic genius. I get up, bend my face over hers so I can kiss her and she me. We do. Tamed it may be, but a thrill is there, here and now. This is a moment: here and now. Of course, by the time I sit back down and she’s reverted to her esthetic state, we’ve both forgotten the thrill and the moment – it wouldn’t make evolutionary sense if we spent every blessed moment savoring the thrill of it. God’s bones, we get little enough done as it is. True science observes, anyhow, that moments are the twisted skeins of a life, the bosons of a thing of talking flesh. Smollett demonstrates that thrill is the invisible but sensible ether that jolts a life this way and also that and thus visibles the otherwise fleeting moment. Cécile Mont-Reynaud, “La Fileuse”. Photo © Pauline Turmel Four years ago now, the Circassian (artist-acrobat) Cécile Mont-Reynaud, whose high-wire performance as Fate thrice-personified in her performance La Fileuse (“Yarning”), proved all this beyond a doubt in front of the public library Romain Rolland in the eastern suburb of Romainville, now served by the number 11 line. Karine was there and, if you can get her attention, she’ll vouch for it from our blood-red Récamier, reading from the stippled whitewash of the naked ceiling. “A medusa, a mop,” I wrote as Mont-Reynaud’s skeins visibled in the senible ether, “A fleeting moment, lampshade merry-go-round, a cocoon, a caterpillar turned weeping willow, a shower of rain, a pinata, a bird’s gilded golden cage, a trunk, an obstacle course of visibled bosons, a raging sea, a maypole, a ladder of knots or a knot of ladders, a spherical stair of golden hair... an uneasy plinth-cum-diving board to address the gods and reason men, slip knots, electric wires, cords and dis-chords, strands of muscle. Swing through string: What a thrill.” There you have it. Memory only makes it seem thrills make moments or vice versa. But thrill is a moment here and there and everywhere. And memory? Another subject. So, I felt a thrill the moment I saw the Atelier’s newsletter in my in-box. Not because choreographers’ Liz Santoro and Joanne Leighton figured there, although they do. But because I suddenly realized that the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2021 at The Best American Poetry
“Day 1” Quarantaine/Le Confinement mis à nu ©Sarah Meunier Ami entends-tu le vol noir des corbeaux sur nos plaines/… C'est nous qui brisons les barreaux des prisons / …Motivés, motivés/ Il faut rester motivés!/ Motivés, motivés/ Il faut se motiver! – “Motivé, Le Chant des partisans” - Zebda Here is an odd fact such that one only learns when the extent of one’s activity is staring into space, listening to shards of famous operas and wondering about the history of words floating listless in the Zeitgest. The English “quarantine” – “40 days isolated” is cognate with the French “quarantaine”, which also means “forty-something”. I mention this because, just to see how she’s been holding up in le moment bizarre – I mean, what with the shelter in place orders, the remote working, the masks, the absence of mountebanks, monoliths and UFOs, the eternal grinding gears of – …. Of...what? Exactly? Love? Longing? – I mailed the photographer Sarah Meunier the other day. Sarah not too terribly long ago, graciously sent readers of the Best American Poetry a Joyeuses Fêtes! in portraits of the people of Bagnolet, the little Paris suburb where we both live. Motivée, in spite of all, maybe because of it all, too, Sarah keeps on scanning the horizon, not just the ceiling. “The Lightbulb” Quarantaine/Le Confinement mis à nu©Sarah Meunier All indoor, online, hygienically confined, of course, Sarah’s horizon has lately had to be herself, which is as close to a virtuous philosophy as one can get in, in fact, some say it's as close to wisdom as one can get. She titles her series Quarantaine/Le Confinement mis à nu. As I say, Sarah Meunier looks in while looking out; I, on the other hand, look out while looking in. Clearly, her looking loop not only starts differently than mine but gets stretched and molded differently, too. I’m waiting with dead hands for the theaters to reopen, for the mountebanks to peacock, waiting to rush into a crowd and see Gaëlle Bourges’ OVTR (ON VA TOUT RENDRE) and Liz Santoro & Pierre Godard’s MUTUAL INFORMATION. Both at the Atelier de Paris/CDCN. Both pieces remind me of the infinite variety of the Dance that powers the quantum wave we are. Bourge’ll do it through extravagance of movement, Santoro through precision of it. “The package” Quarantaine/Le Confinement mis à nu ©Sarah Meunier Sarah Meunier, in contrast, looking inward to look outward, will be spending her end-of-the-year breakout cultivating her post-Covid Expo-Choc of Comic-book style shots and reflecting on Quarantaine/Le Confinement mis à nu, an experiment, she says, in “becoming (my)own object”, which at the same time looks at how much the objects of her life are part of her as a subject. Quarantaine/Le Confinement mis à nu twists 21st-century selfies into gartered-nude poses and postures, like the mouldering Playboy pin-ups my grandad kept into his fishing trailer at Burr Oak lake. “The Laundry” Quarantaine/Le Confinement mis à nu©Sarah Meunier While Sarah Meunier says she did her pin-ups for fun... Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2020 at The Best American Poetry